Too often do the words effeminate, touchy-feely, emo, fruity, and just flat out lame get associated with poetry. Well while it may be true that writing about your feelings and about the nature of a spring day can make you seem perhaps even a bit girly, it is far from fair to call poets in general a rather immasculine group of people, especially when some of the world’s greatest poets were tougher than most of us will ever be. So here is a list of poets that could clear a room when they arrived at parties, slept with wives, sisters, and daughters, knew how to throw a punch, drank more than a college fraternity president, and had a tender spot in their hearts for dueling.
Lord Byron: Byron’s whole life can be boiled down to outrageous antics for the sake of compensating for a club-foot. After writing Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Byron essentially became the first poet-rockstar, and made stardom a possibility for poets, much like Russell Brand let the world know that like Keith Richards and Steven Tyler, comedians could rock out and have narcotic and sex addictions too. Byron made a habit of sleeping with married women, sodomizing them, and leaving them emotional wrecks. He was so hated in England that he needed to go into exile. He made friends with poet Percy Shelley, and, being the tremendous prick that he was, decided to go out for a swim and a lark on the day of Shelley’s funeral. Byron’s only real love was his half sister, with whom he fathered a child. He married Anabella Milbank and said to her, upon departing for their honeymoon (which he called a Treakle Moon), first that he wished for them to be happy as though they never had been married at all, and second, that the whole thing was a mistake.
Alexander Pushkin: Pushkin drank, wrote about womanizers, wore long frock coats, and took names and kicked ass during his career. He married, which was a poor choice because he ended up dying over the honor of his wife in a duel. Some like to argue that it was over his own honor, because he was, in fact, trying to show the world by putting a bullet in his neighbor’s brain that nobody–nobody–touched Pushkin’s wife. Unless they were willing to pay for it. His most famous work was Eugene Onegin, which is about a similarly minded character with a large sum of money, a knack for seducing married woman for fun and to torment their poor husbands, and with a fancy for dueling. Unlike Pushkin, however, Onegin managed to win his duel. It seems as though the poet actually thought he was just as cool as his own character–this may ultimately be his punishment for the supreme narcissism of writing an amazing story about his opinion and perception of his own personality.
Gaius Catullus: There is very little to explain about this Roman poet, except that he had a filthier mouth and mind than most modern day shock-preformers. In response to someone calling him sensitive because of his delicate verses, ol’ Gaius wrote a poem with verses that were not quite so delicate:
You think I’m a pussy?
I’m going to fuck you in the arse
And make you suck my dick!
Some consider this insecurity–many just understood that this poet had one big set of latin balls and a dick bigger than Julius Caesar himself.
Dylan Thomas: Thomas was a Welsh poet who had the courage to write lyrically and sometimes even metrically and whatever else he wanted in a time when Jack Kerouac and the beats were hitting their peak. His big, thunderous voice shot poems and tales through the channels of the BBC. His character, however, can be summed up by his final words, spoken only an instant before passing out for the last time: “I’ve had 18 straight whiskeys, I believe that’s a record.” Both the record-setting Guinness company and the Irish brewery have collaborated in looking for a new champion since.
Christopher Marlowe: Few men have been able to outdo Marlowe’s legendary demeanor. Although he penned The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, and was even portrayed in one of Shakespeare’s plays As You Like it, in which he gets into a fight over his tab at the bar, the life he chose to lead was undisputedly dangerous. Marlowe was, in theory, a spy, a bar-fighter, a magician, a heretic, as well as a rakehell, which is someone whose general antics and misbehavior cause such a ruckus that they are actually said to raise hell. Marlowe’s association with characters named Thomas Kyd and Ferdinando Stanley make him sound more like a modern day rapper than anything else. Marlowe, in the end, was murdered–one of the few poets in history to suffer this fate. There are many accounts of his death, but it is most commonly accepted that he was either taken out by the Elizabethan equivalent of the CIA or Secret Service, or stabbed in a drunken fight. Marlowe was a tall glass of lyrical badass.